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Smog fighters — trees

July 14, 2017
By JOYCE COMINGORE ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

As I lay on the bone density testing table, I looked up at the ceiling. Lit up was a scene of tree tops and the sun shining through. I remembered reading that surrounding ourselves with trees was good for our health, a mental effect that translates into physical benefits. My article on "Forest Bathing" told of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in 1984, discovering people staying in rooms with a view of trees had shorter post-operative stays, complained less, needed fewer drugs, boosted immune systems and had less post-op complications. So - they were up to date on meeting the needs of our hospitalized patients.

I am aware of the benefits of trees, their absorbing carbon dioxide, giving off oxygen in our atmosphere, soothing our harried lives. Japan has a National Forest Agency, but I am fascinated by China's decision to build tree cities. China has had a growing smog problem in their major cities, in 2015 they were wearing masks and heavy pollution caused between 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths. By 2017 they found that climate change was not giving them enough wind to clear their smog issues, leaving them poorly ventilated, with stagnant air. Their premature deaths are reaching into the millions. China has been pushed to assume a more forceful leading role in international efforts to curb climate change as the United States is backing far away from this issue.

Vowing to "make our skies blue again," they have begun to imagine a new model of city that is not about extending and expanding, but a system of small green cities. Turning to Italian designer, Stefano Boeri Architetti for solutions, he presented a plan to build plant-covered towers by neighborhoods, starting in the Chinese city of Liuzhou, completing it by 2020. On June 26, they broke ground on their "forest city," in April they had announced the building of two skyscrapers called Nanjing Green Towers,

that will hold 1,100 trees and 2,500 cascading shrubs on their rooftops and balconies like the two-towered ones he did in Milan in 2014. Another tower scheduled for Lausanne, Switzerland, is expected to open by 2018. Eventually, they will have 40,000 trees and nearly a million plants of over 100 species, changing colors with the seasons.

The plants will absorb an estimated 10,000 tons of CO2 and 57 tons of pollutants annually, equal to eliminating 2,100 cars off the road. A small part of the city of around 1.5 million residents will be redeveloped. New offices, hotels, hospitals, schools and homes for approximately 30,000 people will be built, with electricity coming from renewable sources like solar power.

In early 2017, another city, Nanging, started building "forest towers." They serve as a blueprint for the "forest city" of Liuzhou. The plan is to create many entire cities of "forest towers" Kung Fu fighting the smog.

Have you seen the pictures of buildings covered with trees and plants? Just one tower doesn't solve or answer the much-needed solution, but a whole city covered by "forest towers," think of the possibilities exposed to help the atmosphere. Maybe, one could go outside and pick fresh fruit from their balcony trees, and from the pots of fresh vegetables now filling many balconies.

Rooftop gardening fills many needs. Besides its architectural enhancement and providing food, it serves as a temperature controller, warmer or cooler, whatever your need. Absorption of the heat comes from roads and buildings. They store it and redirect it back at us, so this can cool our environment. In cooling these islands of heat in our cities, we decrease smog threats and problems connected to heat stress, further lowering our energy consumption, plus the lower costs. Rooftop gardens also give us an area for recreational pursuits, bird habitats and any animals your care to introduce. This also helps reduce the rate and volume of rain runoff as the gardens absorb the rain.

Urban areas lack access to fresh food, making this a viable option, plus, making cities more efficient.

A green roof is different. Generally, they are only a few inches, up to a foot deep with shallow rooted plants that resist heat, wind and lack of moisture. Much like a Scandinavian sod roof. They were called the original eco-friendly roofing material.

We worry about losing agriculture land to population growth; this begins to fill our needs. Factories and commercial buildings are capable of handling mass rooftop farming.

Have you seen the pictures of the red, yellow and grey evergreen forests on Facebook? An interesting article about the effects of climate change. Evergreens aren't supposed to change colors. Yellow ones have been recently attacked by bark beetles, red ones are infested and, of course, the grey ones are dead. Freezing winter temperatures that killed bugs and pests, namely bark beetles, no longer happen with our warming longer summers, giving us stronger and more prevalent bugs.

Bark beetles can now reproduce twice a year, and this new reproductive cycle can lead up to 60 times as many beetles as we formerly had attacking our trees. This climate-driven change with the attacks of the bark beetles has killed more trees than all fires combined over the past 10 years in the United States and Canada. All this relates to my last column on trees moving north and west.

Being aware of our need for trees and their needing us to care for and about them is growing more and more important.

Thank a tree today.

-Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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